Sydney University


Northern Suburbs

By Bruce ‘China’ Lin

6 April 2024

Forty eight hours before kickoff such was the ferocity and gloom of the storm bomb there was no way your mother could put the washing out on the line as *dysania would set in.

But in brilliant sunshine University came away with a come from behind resolute victory of 35-29 over last season’s runners up Northern suburbs to open their 2024 Shute Shield campaign.

Norths actually got off to a fast start with two quick converted tries through persistent pressure within the University quarter. But once University composed themselves the blue and gold fifteen looked impressive.

It was at the half way mark when University scored their first converted try. Repeated phase play inside the Shoremen quarter saw the ball spread out to the open. From twenty metres out the ball was received by club debutant Wallaby the big number eight Isi Naisarani. The big chap wound up and resembling something akin to a bowling ball hurling down the AMG bowling alley Rosebery scattered a cluster of red and black defenders in his wake. It was quite impressive which caused the University supporters in the stand to erupt in euphoria. First grade debutant winger Jack Matthews slotted the conversion and University were on the board.

But the Students were not waiting for any early HECS waiver and soon commenced another attack. This time the ball was moved along the backline inside the Norths quarter. Five eighth slippery Sam Bignold put outside centre Sione Taufui into a nice gap.  Taufui executed a hit and spin to crash over for a converted try and scores were now level. But Norths enjoyed a stroke of luck and before half time scored a five metre rolling maul to lead University 21-14 at the break.

The start of the second half was a mirror of the first with Norths again scoring a five rolling maul try. The Shoremen were ahead 26-14 but there was no panic amongst the Students.

Flanker Angus Allen made amends when he took the last pick and drive to burrow over next to the posts for another Matthews converted try.

Norths created a further buffer with a penalty to be ahead 29-21 so it was up to University to score two converted tries to attain the victory. The players did not disappoint their supporters. The Norths centre Russell was binned for a deliberate slap down of a Sam Bignold pass. The touch finding five metre line out saw a few rucks later a try by another debutant breakaway Sam Allsopp. Again Matthews converted and the scoreline was 29-28 favouring the Shoremen.

But the best was left till last. Who better to score his own try but the goal kicking winger Jack Matthews. University was moving Norths from all corners of the ground.

Inside their quarter the ball was swung wide through the backline. It reached the replacement winger looping from that opposite wing, that man with the name from an Irish soul band Ronan Leahy. Leahy drew the defenders with a gliding run but delicately offloaded to his support Matthews who pumped the legs to dive over in the corner. Matthews then nonchalantly kicked the wide conversion to have a dream debut. Final score 35-29 to University.

There was a host of debutants for University. One who made an impact was the powerful softly spoken number eight Isi Naisarani. Naisarani was just grateful that he got through the game unscathed. “It was great to get the win. I have not played for twelve months and have had three operations so to finally play was good.”

Another new starter for the club was live wire half back Hwi Sharples fresh out of St Joseph’s College. “It felt really good. I got around pretty well. Plus everyone else helped me which made it easy.”

Final words for returning head coach Todd Louden, “I was pleased with the game. The teams coming slowly together but we’re a long way to go. The young guys went really well.”

Next week the club is at home again against the Manly Marlins.


*Dysania – Finding it hard to get out of bed.